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The Astronomy Building

Your primary base of operation will be the Astronomy Building. All students are assigned an office, and given keys to their office and the outside doors by the Department Administrative Secretary, Ofelia Acosta. Please get to know Ofelia and respect her rules for the building.

The mailing address for regular mail is:
Department of Astronomy
Box 30001
MSC 4500
New Mexico State University
Las Cruces NM 88003

The shipping address is:
Department of Astronomy
1320 Frenger Mall
New Mexico State University
Las Cruces NM 88003
In addition to the offices and the departmental office in Room 100, there are several other rooms in the Astronomy Building with which you should become acquainted. The copying machine is located in Room 116 (across the hall from the Department office). Code numbers are needed to operate the copying machine, for use of making personal copies, astronommy class/lab copies and research copies. Please note personal copies are $0.06 each, you will be billed monthly. If you are making copies for a professor with a research grant, use the code 12345. If you are making copies for teaching purposes use the code 37723. Across from the mailboxes is the coffee and snacks room. Please keep it clean!

The primary computer facilities for the department are located in Rooms 118 and 217 (see below). The Astronomy Conference Room is in Room 119; it is the site of graduate Astronomy classes and noontime seminars.

Building security is an issue that we should all be aware of. After 5:00 pm and on the weekends, the Astronomy Building is to remain locked. In these off hours, please close and lock the library and computer room doors before leaving the building. Your care and attention to building security can help to prevent any loss of personal or department property.

The Astronomy department will be your home for the next few years. Please treat it with care and respect. Over the past years, the building has been completely remodeled, and we wish to keep it looking good for years to come.

There are several other buildings in proximity to Astronomy with which you should also become familiar. The science library in Branson Hall just to the north of the Astronomy Building. You should acquaint yourself with the generally good Astronomy book and periodical collections there on the third floor. The Frenger food court is just east of the building, and the main Zuhl library is just beyond that. The Corbett Student Union has some other food options and offers general student area with several services.

Our regular undergraduate classroom and colloquium room is Biology Annex 102 (BX102). The Biology Annex is located immediately opposite the Astronomy building, to the south. Most of the ASTR 105G and 110G lab equipment is located in the auxiliary room in the back of BX 102. If you are employed as a TA, you should get a key to BX102 from Ofelia Acosta. BX102 has a projector that can be used to display images from a computer or a video player. There is a computer in the room, and also a video cable for a laptop. The computer is connected to the network, and an Ethernet cable is available for a laptop to do the same. Familiarize yourself with usage of the equipment before planning to run a lab or make a presentation! A key to the projection cabinet is usually kept inside the auxiliary storage room in BX102, hanging on the light switch.

Department Library/Visitors office

The Astronomy Department maintains a small library in Room 207, which includes a copy of all previous dissertations of Department graduates. This room also doubles as a visitors office and study space, so please respect the multiple uses of the space.

Some recent Astronomical journals plus recent preprints of papers from institutions around the world can be found in the reading room. Older issues of most of the science journals can be found in the Branson Hall Library. Finally, star and galaxy atlases, the Palomar Sky Survey, and the ESO Southern Hemisphere Survey can also be found in the library. CD ROMs containing the digitized POSS I survey, the digitized southern sky survey, ROSAT and Einstein observatories images, etc. are located in the Computer Machine Room.

Books and older journals can be checked out of the Department's library using the check-out sheet. However, new journals are not to be removed from the library except for copying. This should be done quickly and the journal should be returned promptly.

Requests for additional books for the main library should be made to Anatoly Klypin.


Apache Point Observatory

NMSU operates the Apache Point Observatory, which is located in the Sacramento Mountains east of Las Cruces, about a two hour drive away. APO is home to four telescope:

You should definitely consider these facilities for possible research projects; they provide resources that are not available in all graduate programs! Take some time to learn about their capabilities via information on the web and/or by talking with faculty and other students.

The 3.5m is scheduled on a quarterly basis, and you will receive emails soliciting proposals. Graduate students are welcome to propose projects, either with or without faculty involvement; proposals are reviewed by an internal faculty committee.

The SDSS project conducts several survey projects, and all department members have access to the survey products and to collaborations with the large SDSS community.

The NMSU 1m and the ARCSAT provide additional opportunities for research projects.

Campus Observatory

The Tombaugh on-campus observatory is located next to the large student parking lot and neighboring running track just off of Williams Street. The observatory is mainly used for our undergraduate ASTR 105G and 110G labs and other public viewing events. Before using this facility, you need to be trained and checked-out on the equipment: a training session is generally scheduled by Tom Harrison at the beginning of the fall semester. Some online instructions can be found at

There is a separate key for the observatory domes. Inside the dome, you can find another key hanging up that can be used to open the gate.

Tortugas Mt. Observatory

The Department has a 24" telescope in a dome on the north peak of Tortugas Mt (A Mt.), that is readily visible from town. This observatory was used significantly, especially for planet monitoring purposes, for several decades since its construction in the 1960s, but has been used little recently. We started an effort in 2010, in collaboration with the American Association of Variable Star Observers, to bring it back into service as a remote/robotic telescope. If you are interested in working on this project and/or using the telescope, contact Jon Holtzman.

Eventually, we have some hope to take advantage of this visible facility to help to disseminate information about research at NMSU, but details of how to do this are still somewhat murky!


All students should have a basic computer workstation on their desk. These computers run the Linux operating system (specifically, the RedHat/CentOS flavor of Linux). All computers are networked and there is are central servers that host accounts and disks. As a result, if you have a department account, you can log onto any of the department computers; there are not individual accounts for individual machines.

Your desktop is meant to provide basic computer services like editing of files, web access, email access, image display, plotting, and the capability to compile and run basic programs. Many basic programs are installed either on each individual system, or centrally on the server disks, and thus accessible to all machines. However, the desktop computers are probably not optimal for significant computing.

If significant computing resources are needed for your work (e.g. more powerful/faster processing, more memory, etc.), there are several centrally located Department computers that are available via remote login:

machine CPUs Memory (Gby) Dedicated usage
praesepe 48 132 Large jobs
hyades 48 32 Large jobs, better for parallel code?
virgo 64 64 Large jobs
henrietta     Finlator group
seismo 32 64 Jackiewicz group
solarstorm 48 132 McAteer group
milkyway 64 64 Holtzman group

There is also a campus-wide high performance computing facility, joker, that may be of interest.

If you feel that your work is being limited in any way by the computer setup, you should definitely discuss the issue, either with your advisor, Jon Holtzman, or Anatoly Klypin.

If you are having issues with your computer, ask someone about them! We can only attempt to solve long term problems if we know about them! It is OK to shutdown or reboot your computer using the menus on the login screen, but please let Jon Holtzman know if and why you are doing this, so we can attempt to rectify any known issues.

Additional information on department computing can be found at

External access

In an effort to decrease the possibility of computer security issues (hacking), we restrict login access from outside of NMSU to a single gateway machine, You can connect to this machine from anywhere using the SSH login protocol. Once logged into, you can login to any of the individual nodes if you need to via: ssh machinename

Laptops and internet access

Many students now have their own laptops, which you can certainly make use of. To get connected to the network, you will need to first register your machine in the NMSU system. This is easily accomplished by pointing your browser to (often, it will automatically be redirected there), and filling out the requested information (you'll need to know your access information).

You can connect to the network with an Ethernet cable if there is a spare port in your office (if there isn't and you need one, talk with Jon Holtzman about possibilities) or via a wireless connection. The entire building has access to the AggieAir wireless network. There is also a wireless access point in downstairs in AY119, astro-wireless-g, and one upstairs in AY201, astro-wireless-g2. Both require a password, NMSUAstronomy, to access, but given AggieAir, these may be obsolete.


Your NMSU email address will be, where your username is chosen by you when you first access the NMSU system; we set astronomy usernames to match the NMSU username. Email coming into can be accessed via the webmail system. However, many department members choose to forward mail from either to a personal, external email address (e.g., gmail or whatever), or to a local address in the astronomy department ( You can set up automatic forwarding in the email system.

If you use the access or set up forwarding to an external email address, you should make sure than any email that might be sent to you internally from another astronomy machine will get to where you will see it. You can accomplish this by creating a file called .forward in your Linux home directory, and putting the email address to which you wish to forward your email into this file. Don't do this if you forward email from to, or else all email will just keep bouncing back and forth!

Web pages

The department hosts a set of web pages at with a uniform ``look-and feel''. Instructions for how to establish and keep the contents of your department web pages can be found at

You can also make personal web pages by placing files in /home/httpd/html/username, which will be seen at Given that web pages have become a de facto way for people (including potential employers) to learn about others, you should keep your web pages up-to-date and professional!


Computers and computer disks do occasionaly fail, so it is important to consider backing up important data and files. Within the department, we have implemented several disk-to-disk backup systems:

See for some additional information.

It is important to recognize that disk-to-disk backups, especially within the department, are not foolproof. In an extreme example, if a fire or a hacker takes down the entire building, the backups will go along with the originals. As a result, it is always a good idea to consider whether you want to keep an off-site backup of your critical files. It is inexpensive to buy a USB disk that you can bring in occasionally, sync your files to, and bring home. If you require assistance, see Jon Holtzman.

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Jon Holtzman 2018-05-02